A soldier from Miami-Dade was sentenced to 30 days in jail and will be demoted after he pleaded guilty to refusing deployment to Afghanistan.
BY MIKE CLARY, Sun Sentinel, MiamiHerald.com, Aug. 6, 2009
A 24-year-old Iraq War veteran described by family members in Miami as quiet, studious and a one-time chess champion was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in jail for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan after the Army extended his enlistment.
Spc. Victor Agosto entered a guilty plea during an hourlong military court hearing at Fort Hood, Texas. The penalty was the maximum specified under a plea agreement with military prosecutors. The judge also reduced Agosto's rank to private.
Before being sentenced, Agosto told the judge he believes the war violates international law.
``I agree with his decision. The whole family agrees,'' said his sister, Nubia Rodriguez, 30, of North Miami. ``It is not fair for him. He signed up for four years.''
Agosto refused deployment to Afghanistan a few months ago after learning that the Army was keeping him beyond his enlistment date, a policy of involuntary extension known as ``stop-loss.''
``This whole experience has been pretty liberating,'' Agosto said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.
Attorney James Branum said Agosto probably would serve his time in a county detention center in Belton, Texas, and then be returned to his unit at Fort Hood before receiving an other-than-honorable discharge. His sister said she would like him to come home when he is released.
``He is not sorry,'' said Branum, a co-chairman of the Military Law Task Force. ``He believes he did the right thing.''
POSES NO THREAT
Before Agosto was sentenced during the hourlong military hearing, he told the judge he should not be jailed because he posed no threat to anyone.
He said he had remained on post and went to work every day since refusing to deploy. He said he did not use drugs or go absent without leave, as other soldiers have done to avoid deployment.
In a statement Agosto said: ``I have learned that nothing is more frightening to power than a direct and principled challenge to its authority. The truth is on our side, and those who have incarcerated me know it.
``My only apologies are to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope that someday they can forgive me for my contributions to their distress.''
Branum, his attorney, said he expected about 50 people to attend a protest Wednesday night at Fort Hood.
OPPOSES IRAQ WAR
In interviews, Agosto said he does not oppose all wars but came to oppose the one in Iraq after returning from a 13-month deployment in late 2007.
He worked on computers and did not see combat.
Upon returning to Fort Hood, a post about 150 miles southwest of Fort Worth, Agosto became involved in the peace community.
Rodriguez said her brother entered Miami Dade College after his junior year at Miami Jackson Senior High School, and became a member of a chess team that in 2004 earned the school the Chess College of the Year award from the U.S. Chess Federation.
``I was surprised when he enlisted,'' said Rodriguez, an office administrator. ``We wanted him to be a doctor, or to study computer science. Then one day he said he was going into the Army. We just learned two weeks ago that he was going to jail.''
Sun Sentinel researcher Barbara Hijek and the Associated Press contributed to this report.